N. Korea warns against aggression
SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea has warned the peninsula risks a nuclear disaster and would be reduced to ashes in the event of U.S. aggression.
The new round of provocative statements from Pyongyang on Friday follow in the wake of the United States saying it is prepared to deal with "any contingencies" for North Korea.
"Obviously the United States is very prepared with the best plans for any contingencies," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Thursday, as the three-month nuclear impasse shows signs of escalating.
As Washington makes its case for why Iraq poses a threat, Pyongyang has ratcheted up its talk of war, warning any pre-emptive attack by the United States on its nuclear facilities will spark a "full-scale war" on the peninsula.
In the latest step in an arms showdown that began in October, Pyongyang said earlier this week it was restarting a nuclear power plant at Yongbyon, its main nuclear complex.
The plant had been frozen since a 1994 pact with the United States, but the North announced in December it would revive it amid a dispute with Washington over its nuclear ambitions.
Several nations fear Yongbyon will be used to extract weapons-grade plutonium, but so far no government has publicly verified the plant is back in operation.
North Korea kept up its anti-U.S. barrage on Friday, following a Thursday commentary that accused Washington of planning to beef up its military presence in the region and launch pre-emptive strikes.
"If the U.S. moves to bolster aggression troops are unchecked, the whole land of Korea will be reduced to ashes and the Koreans will not escape horrible nuclear disasters," said the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland.
Pyongyang insists its nuclear program is designed for peaceful purposes and says it reactivated its main nuclear complex to generate much needed electricity.
But analysts say the impoverished North is likely using the nuclear deadlock as a way of getting some international attention, especially aid for its impoverished people.
Alongside reactivating mothballed nuclear reactors, in recent months Pyongyang has also ejected U.N. nuclear inspectors and pulled out of a global nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
U.S. intelligence reports last week said satellites had detected trucks apparently taking on cargo at the storage facility where spent nuclear fuel rods are stored.
Shortly afterwards, the Pentagon said it would deploy reinforcements to the Pacific in South Korea.
While Washington has said the developments were dangerous, officials have added they see no reason to abandon diplomacy.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said earlier this week he believes face-to-face talks could come soon.
Pyongyang has asked for a non-aggression treaty and a resumption of fuel oil shipments the United States and key allies cut off after it admitted to a covert weapons program.
The Bush administration has resisted direct talks so far because, they said, it would be giving in to "nuclear blackmail."
-- CNN White House Correspondent Dana Bash and wire services contributed to this report